ORLANDO, Fla. — For the first time, the Orange County Commission discussed whether to bring a needle exchange program to the county.
- County commission asks Health Department to draft ordinance
- Needle exchange program would give clean needles for used ones
- Aim is to decrease spread of infectious diseases like HIV, hepatitis C
During a meeting Tuesday, the Board ultimately requested Orange County Health Department Director Dr. Yolanda Martinez to draft an ordinance that the board will then review.
If the board passes the ordinance, it would govern the first needle exchange program in Central Florida.
Part of the ordinance would allow drug users to exchange their used needles for clean ones. It’s part of an effort to prevent the spread of infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis C.
In 2019, Orange County had the second highest rate of HIV cases in the state of Florida.
Spectrum News 13's Watchdog investigations team has been following this issue since last year, when we traveled to Miami to get an inside look at Florida’s then-only needle exchange program. The director of the program said he thinks the program prevented an HIV outbreak in Miami in 2018.
During Tuesday’s board discussion, commissioners expressed concern over where these facilities would open, but overall, they were interested in moving forward.
Needle exchange programs are new to Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law last year allowing lawmakers in each county to decide whether to open a needle exchange program. According to the law, taxpayer money cannot be used to fund the program.
Martinez said several private organizations have already expressed interest.